UNI Continuing and Distance Education receives 2013 Innovators Award for distance learning

The Iowa Distance Learning Association (IDLA) awards individuals or organizations for innovative contributions to distance learning through outstanding teaching, program design and development, as well as innovations in methods, technique, technology and advocacy. The Innovators Award Recipient for 2013 is UNI Continuing and Distance Education's instructional development and support team, including Belle Cowden, Director; Farah Kashef, Instructional Developer; Jonathan Last, Distance Education Support Specialist; Michael Savage, Information Technology Specialist; and Joanna Thompson-Yezek, Instructional Developer.

The UNI team received the award for its innovative, integrative team approach to providing comprehensive support services to faculty members who teach distance education courses. Team members provide individual consultation and ongoing support to faculty members, as well as orientations to Adobe Connect, Panopto, eLearning (Bb9) and other technology tools.

The Office of Continuing and Distance Education hosts the Annual Distance Education Conference, celebrating and showcasing innovative and best practices put into action by UNI faculty and staff.

The team's dedication to ongoing opportunities for learning and improvement also played an important role in receiving the award. Professional development and Quality Matters (QM) workshops for faculty members provide a comprehensive plan to promote best practices in course design and teaching, especially in an online environment. Nearly 40 individuals have completed the requirements to become QM Certified Peer Reviewers. A leader in the field, Cowden serves as the point of contact for QM in the state of Iowa and has collaborated closely with Allen College and Iowa State University for QM implementation with plans to expand to other institutions, as well. The impact of this collaborative approach is to elevate the overall quality of online courses on a broader scale.

UNI Continuing and Distance Education is honored to be recognized for its contribution to distance education in Iowa and its innovative spirit that drives quality education via instructional technology. Kent Johnson, Dean, notes, “We are pleased to receive this recognition from the Iowa Distance Learning Association for our team-based approach in developing and delivering high-quality, innovative courses and programs through distance education. It’s an important affirmation that we are on the right track in ensuring that distance education offerings and support services available from UNI are second to none.”